Book: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Ready Player One is the debut novel by Ernest Cline, set in a dystopian future The Global Energy Crisis has left the world a wreck, with many people struggling to survive. In 2012, James Halliday, an award winning game programmer and the co-founder of a company now known as Gregarious Simulation Systems, released a software product called OASIS. This was initially a massively multiplayer online game but has since evolved. OASIS featured an immersive virtual reality environment in which millions of people could be online at the same time in the same world, without the problems of server lag that affected previous games, limiting the number of players in any particular world to a few thousand.
OASIS was initially huge, with many planets, but expanded and evolved, effectively taking the role of the entire Internet, with entire planets devoted to shopping and business. Much of the world's population spent a lot of their time working, shopping and playing online and Halliday became a very rich man. When Halliday died in about 2040, he set up a giant Easter Egg hunt, and those who spent their time trying to complete it became known as Easter Egg hunters or "gunters."
The Easter Egg was hidden in the OASIS and, under the terms of Halliday's will, the person who finds the Easter Egg would inherit Halliday's entire fortune, valued at $240 billion at the time of his death and also gain control of the OASIS and Gregarious Simulation Systems.
Halliday was obsessed with the 80s, the period in which he was a teenager, so in order to gain clues to find the keys needed to get the Easter Egg, gunters became dedicated researchers of the culture that Halliday was obsessed with, leading to a worldwide resurgence in 80s fashions, culture and entertainment. The OASIS, and the entire book, contains lots of references from that period, although there are also geekdom references from other periods. There are things such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, the Lord of the Rings, early computer games and coin-op arcades, science fiction and fantasy books, television programs and films, online gaming and 80s music and television programs.
Ready Player One starts several years after Halliday's death, in 2045. The book is narrated from the point of view of Wade Watts, a teenager living in a "stack" in a trailer park outside Oklahoma City. The stacks are trailers of all types stacked on top of each other to make the most of the space available, and each trailer will house several families. The story narrates the discovery of the three keys required to find the Easter Egg. A ruthless megacorp, Innovative Online Industries (IOI), wants to gain control of GSS and the OASIS so that they can properly monetise it - access being currently available for free.
This is an addictive book and likely the ultimate geek novel. When reading the book, see how many of the geek references throughout the book, hunt and the online world you get, some of which are fairly obscure. Even though Ready Player One will likely primarily appeal to geeks and those most familiar with many of the references, especially to the 80s, the story is fun and entertaining enough that it should appeal to others.